SportsAid has long worked in partnership with GLL, a charitable social enterprise, to select young sports stars for the GLL Sport Foundation (GSF), its athlete support programme. Through the partnership, originally launched in 2008, athletes are supported with financial awards of up to £1,250 and a variety of other benefits made available to them.
Since its inception, GLL has helped many high-profile members of SportsAid’s alumni, including taekwondo fighter Lutalo Muhammad, who said ‘without GLL, I would not of transitioned from a skinny kid that loved sport to an Olympic medalist’. When GSF ambassador Lutalo first started competing internationally, GLL was his only source of funding.
GLL has hosted a number of SportsAid events across its various facilities including a visit from HRH The Duchess of Cambridge back in 2014. The Duchess, who is the Patron of SportsAid, attended an athlete workshop which saw young sports stars, supported by the charity, receiving guidance on nutrition, performance lifestyle and dealing with the media.
Here, Mark Gliddon, Manager of the GLL Sport Foundation, explains more about the wide-ranging work of GLL and the history behind its partnership with SportsAid…
GLL has been supporting young talented athletes via SportsAid for nearly a decade! How important is this partnership to GLL?
As a Charitable Social Enterprise, contributing positively to our local communities is central to our business, and in 2007 GLL launched the GLL Sport Foundation to support talented local athletes. Core to the Foundation’s positioning was the central partnership with SportsAid as it ensured the Foundation supported the right athletes, at the right time, with the right support.
SportsAid also vitally enabled the Foundation to gain core award profiling and verification through the national governing bodies of sport talent pathways. The SportsAid partnership has grown as GLL has geographically grown, and including the upcoming 2017 award round, GLL has funded a staggering 672 SportsAid athlete awards through the GLL Sport Foundation at a direct financial value of over £500,000.
What motivated GLL to begin supporting young athletes? What continues to be the main driver behind this?
The motivation stems from GLL’s Charitable Social Enterprise status and the ‘want’ to support and benefit our local communities. GLL is equally passionate about sport and physical activity and the notion that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their sporting or wider life goals.
The GLL Sport Foundation provides GLL with a tangible programme to support talented athletes and provides a support structure to enable them to develop and achieve sporting success. The original motivation is equally central to the focus moving forward to the next 10 years.
Recognition, in addition to the financial support, is a big boost for young athletes. How does GLL look to engage with the athletes it supports?
GLL prides the GLL Sport Foundation on being athlete-focused. Yes we provide athletes with financial support and it’s true that the recognition plays a vital role in their motivation.
But GLL further provides athletes with a training membership enabling access to all our 250+ operated venues, thus enabling them to complete strength and conditioning programmes in our gyms, rehab work in the pool and skills practice all in an environment that is local to them for both training and competition. The Foundation also works very closely with a number of sport science providers to allow athletes direct support across the world of performance sport, to physiotherapy and injury prevention credits.
Furthermore, the Foundation looks to support athletes through the transition phases in their life and sport including access to training and coaching qualifications to work placements and jobs within GLL. Linked to this full circle of support, the athletes play a core role in inspiring and engaging our wider local communities. We are able to highlight the successes of local athletes, and link them to attending multiple GLL and community events. These elements of the programme bring it to life and truly inspire the next generation of our local communities.
What impact did you see London 2012 have on the young athletes you support?
London 2012 was a phenomenal success in terms of athlete performances and the legacy the Games created. GLL operates two of the Olympic venues in legacy mode – the London Aquatics Centre and the Copper Box Arena. Supported athletes train at these venues daily and furthermore 1000s of children are learning a sport on a weekly basis at these venues.
The Foundation has supported athletes from a junior to international level, and it is that athlete journey we want to continue to support. A GLL Sport Foundation ambassador and two-times Olympic medallist Lutalo Muhammad is a brilliant example of this, and he echoes the Foundation’s ambition.
The Foundation supported 59 athletes that won 13 medals at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games this was then further increased at the Rio Games where 45 supported athletes won 20 medals. And going forward the Foundation is committed to supporting Olympic and Paralympic athletes towards Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
Do you have athletes who previously received awards looking to come back to show their support for GLL's work?
100%. GLL builds a partnership with an athlete through their sporting journey. Supported athletes give back all they can to the programme. It is their ongoing commitment that enables us to increase sport and physical activity levels of our communities and inspire the next sporting talent. The GLL Sport Foundation has a core set of sponsors that provide vital financial support to the Foundation, and supported athletes attend events and delivery presentations to showcase what that vital sponsorship means.
Finally, can you give us an insight into the range of programmes and projects GLL supports/runs?
GLL is the largest leisure provider in the UK. We operate community spaces and services for the benefit of local communities:
GLL operates over 250 venues across the UK from leisure centres, to libraries and children centres.
GLL has core partnerships with the national governing bodies of sport, public health, local authorities, agencies and more to maximise our offer and impact.
GLL operates the largest swim school in the UK where over 100,000 school-aged children learn to swim and develop their skill levels in our centres.
GLL also plays a key national role for sporting pathways in sports including diving, football, gymnastics and tennis etc.
GLL has brought about ground-breaking changes to our sector including the delivery of multiple cultural services (leisure, libraries, children centres and sports development).
GLL delivers award-winning employee training programmes and provides award-winning services including Better Spa Experience, Better Coffee Corner and Better Extreme.